Paul Jaminet is quite smart, thoughtful and balanced. I learned some new ideas from him.
Dr. Paul Jaminet is an MIT and Berkley-trained astrophysicist. He has worked at Harvard and is the co-author of “Perfect Health Diet: Regain Health and Lose Weight by Eating the Way You Were Meant to Eat,” and blogs at PerfectHealthDiet.com with his wife Dr. Shou-Ching Shih Jaminet.
He is also starting a biotech company, is running a health retreat, and is working on a cookbook that will be released soon.
Dr. Paul Jaminet spent 5 years determining the Perfect Health Diet, and what nutrients we need for excellent health (as well as what foods incorporate these needed nutrients). Apparently, we evolved to require a delicious diet. I won’t object to that.
During the podcast we cover:
- Optimum diet, including key daily nutrients, and why it’s important for immune health
- Optimum lifestyle, including circadian rhythm
Perfect Health Diet
Q: What is the Perfect Health Diet?
A: It’s an ancestral diet, meaning it’s a natural whole foods diet. Our ancestors may have hunted and gathered during the Paleolithic. He researched for 5 years, going through the literature and searching to find the optimal amount of each nutrient, then found a list of foods that would meet optimal nutrition. The diet came out to be delicious, which makes sense that our brain must have evolved to like foods that are good for us. Thousands of people have reported curing diseases with the diet. They are still learning how to heal naturally through diet and lifestyle.
Q: Did you also try to include paleo concepts?
A: Yes. They started through the paleo template and then adjusted things. They do exclude some foods like wheat, soybeans, and peanuts. That’s partly evidence-driven, but also partly driven by paleo history and that enough people have had problems with gluten or soy.
Q: Are you worried about dietary lectins in your diet?
A: More worried about digestive inhibitors than lectins. Most lectins are digested fairly well. Many are destroyed in cooking and aren’t necessarily that toxic, but there are a lot of compounds in cereal grains and in the seeds of legumes that grow in grasslands that specifically evolve to sabotage mammalian digestion. These things are eaten by herbivorous mammals that graze in grasslands; so they have compounds that seem to be more troublesome.
Q: What kind of digestion?
A: Some inhibit enzymes. There are also compounds that affect the cells of our digestive tract and make them not function as well as they should.
Q: Which compounds are you referring to?
A: It’s not completely known what the compounds are. But it’s definitely known that some of these foods can suppress digestion. The example that we give in our book: if you eat a gram of wheat bran then stool weight will increase by 6 grams-so it’s clearly suppressing digestion and causing more of your food to go into your stool. But the mechanisms aren’t exactly known.
Q: What is your opinion of the percentage of health that comes from lifestyle, diet, etc.
A: Lifestyle has a very powerful effect, at least 1/3. Diet is probably comparable to lifestyle, though powerful (for example we can die of thirst in 60 days). We have an evolved brain system that has guided us to eat the things that we need. For most people diet imperfections may be taking off 10 years of their life, similar to imperfections in lifestyle. The other 1/3 is luck- exposure to infections. We all get chronic infections, and the infectious burden tends to grow as we age.
Q: Would you mind saying what health issues you had in the past?
A: Some of it is a little mysterious. Had at least 2 chronic infections in the past. At least 1 was acquired from birth (chronic ear infections) requiring surgery. Apparently, these were finally determined to be from fungal infections, which explain why antibiotics didn’t help. Fungal infections were causing swelling in his ears. He almost got in big trouble taking antibiotics for it. Then there was a bacterial infection that did respond to antibiotics. Finally, there were diet and lifestyle issues.
He started feeling poorly after taking antibiotics for acne in his 20s, which must have aggregated fungal infection. Caused fatigued, slow reaction time, loss of memory, impaired mood. He didn’t feel right and it kept getting worse every year.
Q: How did you get rid of the fungal infections?
A: He didn’t know he had them for a long time. It wasn’t until he went on a paleo low-carb diet that the symptoms flared.
Q: Why do you think that was?
A: Carbs are important for anti-fungal immunity, and going on a low carb diet gave some deficiencies, like Vitamin C deficiency, which also impaired anti-fungal immunity.
Q: What’s interesting is that a lot of people think that carbs cause fungal infections, so when you go on a low carb diet you will actually get rid of it, but in your case, the opposite happened.
A: That’s a mistake, but added sugar is a problem. Going too low carb is also a problem.
Q: How did you reverse it?
A: Improving lifestyle and diet. Need better immunity and friendly bacteria. In the gut, it’s good bacteria that will defeat the microbes for you.
Q: How did you improve your gut?
A: Eating a diverse diet. Diverse fiber, good nutrition, support immune function, and gut health. The immune system is constantly trying to shape the gut microbiome. They will release antimicrobial peptides into the gut where there are inappropriate bacteria and they will tolerate beneficial bacteria, so long as you are supplying good nutrition, good bacteria, and a good environment. Usually, over time, the balance of power will shift to beneficial germs.
Q: Why didn’t you try fluconazole?
A: He did but got a few liver symptoms out of it. It wasn’t super effective. Was taking fluconazole for at least 3 weeks. Didn’t feel they were as effective. Got more effects from Lufenuron (over the counter, veterinarian medicine)-and good results supplementing iodine, but in general, just needed diet and lifestyle that had the biggest impact.
A: It’s antimicrobial in its own right, and it’s also helpful to the myeloperoxidase pathway which is important in anti-fungal immunity.
Q: I saw you weren’t a fan of Lugol’s iodine?
A: He takes a low dose of iodine, 225 micrograms a day. He did try higher doses for a time, but he thinks they are a little risky.
Q: What about iodine in the form of seaweed? Still, take it in a lower dose then?
A: 225mcg is the equivalent of 4 nori sheets a day. Most people wouldn’t take more than that.
Q: What about dulse? Japanese take 3000 micrograms a day.
A: They are probably getting kelp, but kelp isn’t necessarily that safe. For thyroid health, you want consistency in the dose. You don’t want to go without it for a few weeks and then take a large dose. If you supplement then the thyroid gland won’t be savaging iodine aggressively, so you won’t have any problems if you eat an iodine-rich meal
Q: You don’t like kelp because of the toxins?
A: It can concentrate heavy metals, and can give you a very high dose of iodine; you don’t want to have variations in your iodine exposure.
Q: Do you take anything in your regimen that chelates heavy metals?
A: No, he just has his food and nutrition. Your body has it’s own excretion mechanisms so he chooses to stay away from too many toxins and heavy metals.
Q: Calories-do you believe you should reduce them for weight, or follow the Perfect Health Diet and you will be able to handle the calories?
A: Do the Perfect Health Diet. Recommends intermittent fasting in order to handle the calories; eat within an 8-hour window within the daytime. Calibrate your food intake so that you get just mildly hungry at the end of the day. Eat a balanced, nutritious diet.
Q: You mention saturated fats are healthy. What are the health benefits of saturated fat and how many grams do you recommend.
A: Every nutrient is beneficial in low doses, and can be harmful in high doses. Also, the effects are somewhat context dependent. So if you’re eating a very unhealthy diet, then some of the things that are good for you if you are on a more natural diet aren’t as good for you with a poor diet. Saturated fats represent around 40% of fatty acids on cell membranes so they are a major component of our body. They are also the precursor to the synthesis of a lot of lipids including cholesterol and steroid hormones.
Q: If you go lower on saturated fat, is there some change in the content of the saturated fat on your membranes?
A: Membranes tend to be closely regulated. Cells have a target and will preferentially consume things that are in the body in excess. One of the nice things about eating saturated fats is it gives the body a little more control. They can be transformed in many ways; they can be burned for energy, used to synthesize things like cholesterol, can be de-saturated to make monounsaturated fats. In contrast, if you overeat omega 6 polyunsaturated fats, there is very little the body can do with them. In many ways, saturated fats are safer than other types of fat.
Q: I personally don’t do well with saturated fat, but a lot of people do. Why would someone not do well?
A: Saturated fats are straight and rigid. They make a particular structure in our lipid membranes, promote mitochondrial uncoupling, and can promote the generation of reactive oxygen species. So when people are on energy excess diets, saturated fats enable mitochondria to generate more reactive oxygen species than they otherwise would in response to energy excess. Can be harmful especially when lacking antioxidants. If you combine saturated fats promoting the reactive oxygen generation with high omega 6 diets (that so many people have from vegetable oils), then you can get lipid peroxidation, which can do a lot of harm. But on the other hand, if you are on a caloric deficiency diet, then saturated fats are one of the most helpful. So doing things like intermittent fasting that helps your body get rid of excess energy can really make saturated fats much more helpful.
Q: When people go over on their calories then that’s when saturated fats become harmful. What do you think of seafood, and what do you think about the fact that DHA is affected when you cook it?
A: Generally it’s important to cook gently, and keep seafood fresh. Which is why don’t recommend fish oil capsules, because fish oil can go rancid easily, and can easily be damaged when you try to cook it at high temperatures. He wouldn’t worry about losing DHA with gentle cooking methods. He often cooks his fish in water – he makes a lot of fish curries or fish stews. More DHA can degrade in the fridge than with gentle cooking.
Q: There are some fish oils that include antioxidants. How do you feel about these?
A: Some of them do, but they have a tendency to sit on shelves for a long time. In clinical trials, people who consume fish improve their health, but people who take fish oil capsules worsen their health.
Q: What do you think of the fermented cod liver supplements that are in the paleo-sphere now?
A: He doesn’t recommend isolated oils that have been laying around, and then fermentation can make chemical reactions even more likely.
For fish oil, they generally prefer fresh salmon, for vitamin A they prefer liver, for fermentation products they prefer umami-type fermented foods like fish sauce, tamari sauce, aged cheese, and fermented vegetables that you make at home. There are good things in fermented cod liver oil but he thinks there are better sources for every good thing, and that there are some risks for fermented cod liver oil.
Q: Do certain environments influence our ideal diet?
A: He doesn’t think the optimal diet varies much with different environments. Our nutritional needs were more or less fixed about 500 million years ago when multicellular life evolved and there was the last big change in the structure of creatures-the creation of extracellular matrix (a relatively carbohydrate-rich part of the body). Once we did that and the only things that have changed since are that sizes of the organs-humans have relatively large brains compared to rest of the body, so that changes our nutritional needs a bit. Almost all animals have the same nutritional needs, but what varies is the digestive tract. So we evolved into different food niches-herbivore vs. carnivore through changes in our digestive tract. Our digestive tract has to transform the nutrient mix that we eat into the nutrient mix that we need; it does that through things like the fermentation of carbs into fatty acids and then synthesizing from the short chain fatty acids the things that we need. So digestive tracts vary a lot between mammals and the ecological niche that they are in varies, but their nutritional needs don’t really vary that much. Differences you would see from the Paleolithic till now are changes in the digestive tract and metabolic processing, and our ability to cope with low-nutrient diets, but the optimal diet in terms of nutrition doesn’t evolve much.
Q: In the low-carb paleo sphere you are maverick, saying 30 percent of the diet should come from carbs.
A: Carbs are used for a wide variety of things: the extracellular matrix has a substantial carb component, fluids that lubricate our joints, mucus that protects our gut, sinuses, respiratory tract, tears, saliva, immune system uses a lot of glucose to fight infections, our brain needs to consume some glucose. So we have some significant needs for glucose. We recommend getting 30% of calories from carbs for adults, and 40% in the form of carbohydrates for children. Also, we need to provide carbohydrate fiber to gut microbiome which is important for long-term health.
Q: Can you say what part of the immune system needs glucose specifically?
A: To generate reactive oxygen species, glucose is the macronutrient that powers that.
Q: Would that suggest that a keto diet would leave some people immune deficient in some ways?
A: Yes, especially against eukaryotic pathogens: fungi, protozoa, parasitic worms.
Q: What supplements do you personally take?
Q: What is your dose of pantothenic acid?
A: 500 mg, varying between once a week to daily
Q Why do you take that?
A: It’s a risk-reward question and is extremely safe. You can’t really do any harm by taking it-it’s needed to produce coenzyme A-the hub of metabolism, important for energy production and for various pathways that synthesize various things that the body needs. You don’t want to be deficient in it. His health problems started when he had an acne problem. One thing he noticed was that when he took pantothenic acid he would be much less likely to get pimples. So it is easy to get a mild pantothenic deficiency, and you may not want to rely on food only for this.
Q: You don’t recommend Lugol’s?
A: It’s fine to buy it, but the dose is very large. If you buy it, dilute it 30 fold or so. They come in 1 oz bottle, so buy a 1-liter bottle of water, pour 1 oz bottle into the 1-liter bottle and just use the dropper from there.
Q: What about people who claim to get health benefits from 50 mg of iodine from Lugol’s?
A: It’s possible. 100 years ago high doses of iodine were used as standard treatment. Used to be used like we use antibiotics today. It can work, but it’s risky (risk of thyroid injury, higher risk of hyperthyroidism).
Q: In your framework of chronic disease, what do you think the pillars are? Mitochondrial dysfunction etc.
A: All of these things happen; they tend to happen when the diet is malnourished or unbalanced-the things you are deficient in will tend to drive appetite, so you will have an excess of other things and that could lead to toxicity. Or if you have excess energy it can lead to reactive oxygen species being generated and you having too much oxidative stress. Locate the fundamental causes in diet, lifestyle (circadian rhythm disruption-is the biggest cause of disease from a lifestyle point of view), and infections. Nowadays we are good in modern medicine at getting rid of acute infections, but not chronic infections.
Q: Beyond diet, what would you recommend for someone with chronic infections.
A: Circadian rhythm entrainment is very important for immune function. Intermittent fasting can be a big aid to immune function. Good nourishment is important-Vitamin A and Vitamin D are crucial for mucosal immunity. Some of the antioxidants, glutathione, and some minerals are important for systemic immunity. You also typically, with chronic infections, have wound healing issues. This requires the same advice you would need for any condition; you want to be well nourished. Usually, your body can take care of itself pretty well if you do that.
Q: Why is psychological stress so bad. Is this due to impaired immunity?
A: It is mainly bad through circadian rhythm disruption. We are supposed to experience stress during the day, but people carry their stress with them to the night, and we aren’t meant to experience stress at night. This is the time of wound healing.
(Me): I have a feeling this is due to corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH).
A: Through circadian rhythms, the trillion cells in our bodies have to synchronize their clocks to coordinate their activities and make us healthy. Just like in the spy movies where in order to pull off their mission the spies have to synchronize their clocks. It’s really just a coordination issue. There’s no function in the body that can be successfully fulfilled by one cell itself. Everything needs coordination of many cells.
Immunity, wound-healing, mitogenesis, DNA repair, all are diminished if we disrupt our circadian rhythms.
Q: Which aspects of the immune system do you find are low in people in the modern environment (due that our immune systems are so complex)?
A: Most people’s circadian rhythms are disrupted to some degree, most people are malnourished-not getting enough extracellular matrix in their diets because they aren’t making soups and stews with bones and joint materials, so they are just eating muscle meats and not getting some of the other nutrients found in organ meats. They are not getting enough vitamin A, enough sunshine, and not feeding their gut microbiome as well as they should be, which is in large part due to eating processed foods that tend to be low in fiber.
In their health retreats, they do free health coaching and it’s very often that many of the same points of emphasis come up in the common diseases-people are deficient in wound healing, mucosal immunity, they are missing digestive nutrients like those that are needed to produce bile.
Q: Which nutrients are those?
A: Primarily the ones that people are most lacking- Vitamin C, taurine and lysine, which congregate in bile. Glycine is also an important amino acid in collagen and taurine is also a donor of sulfur and sulfates are very abundant in the extracellular matrix.
Q: Could collagen substitute bone broth, or are there more things in bone broth?
A: Collagen is good but bone broth is better. You have a lot of compounds that are joined by sulfates to carbohydrate molecules so there’s a lot of proteoglycans, glycoproteins, in the extracellular matrix. So minerals like sulfur and silicon are not in collagen but are very abundant in the extracellular matrix.
Q: I eat chicken bones, are you a fan of that?
Q: Do you have any sleep hacks?
A: He believes in healthy living. Every influence on your circadian rhythm has an impact for the next 48 hours. There are a number of zeitgebers (time givers to the circadian rhythm system), and you need to control them for every moment of the prior 48 hours in order to have the best sleep and control your sleep environment.
You also don’t want to have any nutritional deficiencies-those can make your brain a bit anxious at night. Often when people are too low carb they will wake at night. When food is scarce, the brain wants you to look for food whenever it is available. If food is available at night but there’s no food during the day then food will replace light and become the dominant zeitgeber (time of activity will shift to the night and time of sleep will move to the day). If you work during the day and are dieting/restricting calories during the day, and eating at night, this will keep you up.
Q: Which toxins do you think are the worst?
A: Whichever ones you are consuming. It may not really be known-different people will say different things. Some people would say it’s the ones in our staple foods, wheat, and soy because we consume so much of them. Wheat is a quarter of peoples’ food intake. We do have various environmental compounds in our industrial world that we weren’t exposed to before, endocrine disrupters and other things. There are people who think those are significant. When we had lead in gasoline and paint, this had a huge health impact. Heavy metals can be a problem. It’s going to be variable in different places. People in China are exposed to a lot more toxins than those in the US, generally speaking, and to different toxins, so it’s hard to generalize about that.
Q: What’s your opinion on EMFs?
A: Let’s hope they aren’t too damaging. We have been exposed to 60-hertz radiation for well over 100 years now, and microwaves have been pretty common for 20 years now. To some degree, it’s an experiment. The problem is a lot of the things we care about in terms of practical health effects are pretty subtle; they may show up in some fraction of the population after 70 years of exposure. If we are dying at 75 instead of 85, we care about that, but it’s really hard to measure this effect.
Q: What do you think of microwaving food?
A: He thinks it’s a good way of cooking food. It’s a gentle cooking method and does little to create toxins. Leftovers are a big part of our diet. Many foods improve their quality if you cook them in advance and then refrigerate them, especially starches because you generate more fiber that way. It’s also good for your circadian rhythm if you cook in the evening and eat during the daytime. It’s hard to take an hour off during the daytime to cook your lunch. But you want to get most of your calories during the day so it’s a good reheating method.
Timing of Eating & Sleep
Q: How many hours before sleep do you recommend not eating?
A: In general you should eat 4 hours before you go to bed, with the exception of potentially a light dessert maybe 3 hours before bed. Like fruit or berries, or warm milk and honey and turmeric before bed.
Q: What about collagen right before bed, would this throw off your circadian rhythm?
A: That’s a good dessert. He recommends getting dessert at the transition from daytime to nighttime and then going to bed 3 hours into the nighttime. If your daytime is 8am-8pm have dessert at 8 pm, then go to bed at 11 pm.
If the lack of carbs is disrupting your sleep, then you should eat more carbs during the daytime. Instead of eating honey at 10 pm, eat more carbs in the afternoon. The body can store enough carbs to last through the night.
Q: What do you think the main cause of fatigue after meals are?
A: This is very common. It is due to immune activity. Any kind of leaky gut, endotoxemia, any kind of infection that feeds on food (i.e. if you have a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or some kind of infection in the gut you will get inflammation). If you have a leaky gut and digestive peptides are getting into the body and you have food sensitivities then you’ll get a big burst of immune activity after food. If you have endotoxemia you will get fragments of dead gut bacteria coming into the body and bacterial cell wall components are very immunogenic. So food can easily lead to 3-4 hours of immune activity and that can make you fatigued, give you brain fog, and other symptoms.
Q: What do you think the cause of bad circulation is?
A: There’re some causes of poor vascular health. Just about every factor of malnutrition, lack of exercise, lack of circadian rhythm entrainment.
Q: Can you list the order of importance of the following?
- Circadian rhythms (this encompasses sunshine and exercise, avoiding blue light sunshine as one of the most important zeitgebers, sleep, psychological stress)
- Genes-are not very important for most people, but can be crucially important for a few. Most genetic mutations will only reach abundance in the population if they have benefits as well as costs. So it’s more a matter of context, and generally, any abundant gene will not impair your health if you are living optimally. They may make you more or less tolerant of a bad diet or bad lifestyle, but they will almost never make you intolerant of an optimum living.
- Environmental toxins are very variable. It depends on your local environment. Some people have really bad exposures. He would say most people in the US aren’t exposed to that many environmental toxins. Some things can matter though-air pollution etc. Water quality is also important.
Q: What kind of water do you drink?
A: He uses a Britta filter.
Top 3 Tips To Perform Better
Q: What are your top 3 tips to perform better?
- circadian rhythm entrainment
- nourishing diet
- intermitting fasting-this doesn’t have a lot of immediate effects, but over time it will have a big impact on longevity
Q: How did you have health problems and become an astrophysicist while you were having health issues?
A: His brain didn’t get impacted as much, though it might have been affected some. Some parts of his brain are a little stronger than others. This is part of evolution’s plan-it’s good to have diversification of what people are good at.
Q: Did you find your cognitive function improved as you became healthier?
A: Definitely. He had severe memory loss at his worst. He would try to write things and would forget what he wrote the previous paragraph. This was in his 30s and early 40s. He had already completed his schooling.
Book: Perfect Health Diet: Regain Health and Lose Weight by Eating the Way You Were Meant to Eat
Dr. Paul Jaminet and Dr. Shou-Ching Shih Jaminet have a health retreat, The Perfect Health Retreat, which includes a luxury property on the beach with 2 saltwater pools, 2 salt hot tubs, health coaching, trainers in both relaxation and activity, and training on how to be healthy for the rest of your life- sounds like an awesome deal…